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The Essentials

Four ways to stay active as an actor between roles.

For years, I’ve been struck by how actors grapple with the period between acting jobs. When we’re looking for our next job, we can be plagued by self-doubt, loss of confidence and sometimes all-out depression. More than a few actors start to feel so low that they become convinced they should say farewell to acting altogether. It can be disheartening to give an audition your all, preparing for hours – or even weeks – and investing so much of yourself, only to face rejection and not get the job. However, nothing worth achieving was ever easy. It’s crucial to learn to stay motivated, upbeat and in control during this period. So how do you keep your spirits up? How can you best prepare yourself for when you’re ready to shine again and show your best self to the world?

Being an actor is so much more than just acting on stage or screen. You are a proficient and multi-skilled artist, and the more well-rounded you are, the better actor you will be. If you focus on some key areas during those uncertain times, you will be honing your craft as well as moving forward toward your goals.

Here are the four areas that I believe every actor can and must work on in their downtime between jobs:

1. Acting business and skill set tasks

Work on your brand

In our industry, you are the product you’re selling. The more specific and clear you are about what you have to offer, the more chance you have of getting noticed. Take some time and step back to look at how you’re presenting yourself to possible employers – is there anything you can improve or correct?

Update your headshot

Your headshot is the single most significant calling card you have as an actor, so make sure it is up to date and actually looks like you. Casting directors will feel you’ve wasted their time if you walk into the audition room looking considerably different from what they expect.

Embrace your looks and what you have to offer. You are unique to anyone else and can bring that certain something to a role which someone else can’t. What you may have thought was holding you back could very well be what opens the door to the right project, kicking off further opportunities.

Review your acting profile skills

Review the skills you have listed on your Spotlight profile and other acting profiles. Have you learned anything new that you can add? Directors are often looking for actors with specific skills. Having a niche skill could up your chances for an audition, as the pool of actors to choose from will be smaller. Perhaps this is the right time to learn to play an instrument, to get that driver’s licence you’ve been meaning to or to take those horse riding lessons. The more skills you have, the bigger your chances of getting noticed.

2. Work on your creativity

The business side of acting is important, but the creative side is why you got into acting in the first place. When you haven’t played a role in a while, you might feel disconnected from your art, so it’s important to keep your creative side alive and active whilst looking for your next opportunity.

Do this by getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with the child within. Put on your own play, write a song, play dress-up, attend an acting class, dance, or just do something that scares you – these are all ways to activate your inner creator. Try out a different art form from what you usually enjoy, like drawing, painting, writing, or creating your own content. Even cooking is creative, so try some new dishes and let your taste buds explore new flavours.

3. Keep Learning

This area is never-ending; it is so important to stretch your mind and learn new things. As actors, we constantly learn new things about our characters and the surroundings they find themselves in. Research is a necessary part of any actor’s life.

Use the period between jobs to immerse yourself in topics you’re unsure of, genres you’d usually avoid and time periods you know nothing about. Catch up on classic films you haven’t watched, theatre shows you’ve been meaning to see and study other actors’ performances. Expanding your knowledge will help you prepare for any future roles, as you will have more information to draw on.

4. Self-Care

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. We work so hard to get ahead and often don’t take the time to relax and recharge fully. Do more of what makes you happy, such as connecting with family and friends, taking a bath, walking in nature, planning, writing, travelling, sleeping, listening to music, meditating, doing some extra gym classes – whatever makes you feel great and gives you energy. You deserve it after putting yourself on the line with your last role. You are out there in the arena doing it, giving your everything. Now is the time to focus on you (and you alone), and recharge your batteries.

Personally, I have found that focusing on tasks in any of these four areas not only helps me to move my career forward but also makes me feel in charge, calm and peaceful. When the next casting comes around, I will be more relaxed and prepared. I will do the character more justice and do a better job overall, upping my chances of getting hired.

My hope is that actors can enjoy the period between jobs by exploring new things and allowing themselves the time to seek new experiences, which will enhance not just their art, but also their lives. Choosing to focus on what we can control so that we remain inspired and curious, and so that we are ready for whatever opportunity comes knocking.

Jasmine Embrechts was born in the Netherlands and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City. She spent extensive time travelling the world and living in various countries. Besides her passion for acting, she loves writing, travelling, running, learning languages, and dancing in her living room. Jasmine’s book The Active Actor: A call to action for the actor between jobs is out now and you can find out more on The Active Actor’s Instagram @TheActiveActor

Headshot credit: Kit Shah

Photo credit: Kevin Schmid / Unsplash